The Mighty Jerusalem Cross
The cross is undeniably one of the central symbols of the Christian faith. Throughout the ages, different variants of the cross has been used by a number of people and sect. Jerusalem Cross, also known as five-fold cross and Crusaders cross, is one of the variations of the Christian cross. It has a large potent cross in the middle and is surrounded by four small crosses in each of its quadrant. Though concrete evidence or proof of the cross’ origin is yet to be produced, it was said that the five-fold cross originated in the 11th century though it is widely associated with the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the second half of the second century.
Looking at history, the Jerusalem Cross has gained its popularity in antiquity during the time of the Crusades. Godfrey Bouillon, the first Christian ruler of Jerusalem in 1099, used the emblem of Jerusalem Cross in his coat-arms. Through this association with the crusades that the Jerusalem Cross has been also known as the Crusaders Cross. Other than this, there are also other interpretations that have been proposed to define the meaning of the five-fold cross.
1. Five Wounds of Christ
“Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.”
- John 19:34
The Jerusalem Cross has been interpreted as the five sacred wounds of Christ. The potent cross in the center represents the wound of Jesus on His side where the soldier has pierced Him to confirm that He was already dead. The four small crosses represents the wounds on Jesus’ hands where the nails pierced His hands to fix Him in the cross beam and the wounds of both of His feet when it was nailed to the small wood at the bottom of the cross. Indeed, this interpretation of the Jerusalem Cross is a beautiful reminder of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus so that humans can be saved through His death.
The potent cross to represent the wound on the side of Jesus can also represent the heart of God that is abundant with love for His people. As the wound on Jesus side flows with water and blood, the heart of God is also flowing with cleansing water that purifies the sinners’ heart and blood that covers him with the righteousness of Jesus. The four small crosses should remind us that Jesus has received the punishment that is reserved for us for our disobedience and rebellion against God Himself. The Jerusalem Cross as a symbol of the five sacred wounds of Jesus is a great reminder that God loves us so much.
2. Christ and the Four Evangelists
Another interpretation that is given to the Jerusalem Cross is Christ and the Four Evangelists, namely Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the disciples of Jesus whom the authorship of the four gospel is attributed. Matthew, the previous tax collector, Mark, the companion of the apostle Peter, Luke, the physician and companion of apostle Paul and John, the beloved apostle. Evangelist literally means a person who proclaims the good news. Jesus at the center means that the core of the Gospel that the four evangelists have written is all about the Lord.
This symbolism for the Five-fold cross speaks of the importance of proclaiming the Good News to all people. But it should be noted that the center of the Gospel should be Jesus Christ Himself. There is a sad reality that some teachers are preaching the Gospel of God yet putting other things in the center – themselves, material things or division. As true believers of God, the Jerusalem Cross that reminds us of Jesus and the four evangelists should be a meaningful symbol for us of the central message of the Gospel and our responsibility to proclaim it.
3. Christ and the Four Quarters of the World
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." – Acts 1:8
The ancient world has believed that earth has literally standing on four corners. Travelling too far carries grave danger of falling on the side. This could be the context of another interpretation that is attributed to the Jerusalem Cross which is Christ and the four quarters of the world. In Jesus’ command in Acts 1:8, He commanded His disciples to go out and preach the Gospel to all people. In connection with the 2nd interpretation, Jesus has called His followers to go to the ends of the earth, to the four quarters of the world to spread the Good News about Him. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth speak figuratively about the people that should be reached by the Gospel.
First, in Jerusalem, the important events in the lives of Jesus and His disciples happened in Jerusalem. This is the place where Jesus was crucified and resurrected. In the context of spreading the Gospel, Jerusalem represents our family or the closest people to us. It is the place where we came from. Sharing Jesus and His gift of eternal life should be share first and foremost to your family.
Judea could represent the people in the neighborhood or the people within your circle of influence like your friends, your officemates, classmates, etc. God has also given us the task to share our faith with the people around us.
Samaria has some notoriety in first century Israel. This is the place where the Samaritans live. Remember what the woman in the well said to Jesus? During those times, Jews and Samaritans do not have a good relationship with one another. Considering the commission of Jesus to go even in Samaria, we could say that it represents those people that don’t share our faith or even those people that we don’t really like.
4. TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH
And lastly Jesus commissioned His disciples to go to the ends of the earth. I believe there is no figure of speech here. God wants us to spread the Good News even to the farthest place here on earth where there are people. Some individuals have been given this gift of evangelism and are called to be missionaries.